Glass Caves and The Witch Hunt play All Saints. Photographs: Duncan Lomax, Ravage Productions

Review: Glass Caves + The Witch Hunt
Venue: All Saints Church, Pavement, York, December 12

You’ve almost certainly seen Glass Caves busking on the streets of York. They seem to spend most of their lives outside All Saints Church on Pavement, playing to ever-expanding crowds. Elsewhere, they’ve been gathering a significant following for their rock-tinged pop with the help of radio plays on Radio 1, BBC 6 Music and numerous regional stations, not to mention live slots at Leeds / Reading and Galtres Festivals.

Possibly hoping for some divine intervention, they’ve decided to play inside the beautiful 14th Century church tonight, as part of a small tour launching their new four-track EP. They’d be forgiven for thinking it would be warmer on the other side of the church wall, but it’s coats and coffee all round to try and keep warm. (Whoever built the venue in the 13th century forgot to put a bar in).

There’s a small, but curious congregation, who take a pew not quite sure what to expect, and it’s not long before Leeds-based The Witch Hunt, arrive at the altar, with the joint vocal and guitar talents of Chris Mulligan and Louisa Osborn.

Chris’s downbeat singing style is reminiscent of The XX, but it’s countered by Louisa’s more open and aggressive vocals which have more than a touch of PJ Harvey about them, and their dark, brooding set gets a healthy, if somewhat polite round of applause from the audience who don’t seem quite sure what to do in these surroundings.

There’s a few more worshippers in when Glass Caves appear, and although I’m slightly disappointed that singer Matthew Hallas doesn’t open the set by saying “Let us play”, they’re soon storming through a great set of original songs that would be familiar to anyone who’s passed them on a Saturday afternoon.

It’s an indication of how well-rehearsed a band is when they can confidently play different versions of their own songs, and Glass Caves seem to be capable of playing in three distinctly different styles.

The songs tonight are mellowed down arrangements from the busking versions, which in turn are quiet cousins of the full-on performance given when the band is on a ‘proper’ stage. Maybe they’ve stripped the songs a little too much tonight – the beautiful venue warrants some respect and it’s easy to think a gig in here should be in hushed tones, but these walls were also made for celebration and noise and it wouldn’t hurt to rattle the stained glass a little more.

They deliver the songs with accuracy and confidence though, and even a tuning problem doesn’t stop play as the band effortlessly work their way through it with most of the audience none the wiser.

Busking has made Glass Caves into a very tight unit indeed and it pays off in such an intimate venue. Once they’re in full flow, highlights are inevitably the tracks from the new EP, particularly This Road (a hit single in waiting), and Throw Down The Pistol.

The lead track from the EP, Summer Lover, dances along with a different time signature to everything else, and by the time they close the set with a cover of Fairytale In New York everyone is in the spirit of things and tucking into the free mince pies.

At the end, there’s talk about playing here again, but somehow I don’t think they’ll get the chance. Glass Caves seem destined for much bigger things in 2014. So even though All Saints has been a beautiful backdrop to a very special gig, I doubt it will hold a Glass Caves audience in a few months from now.

Now, if only there was a great big church in York…


  • Glass Caves new EP is available now on iTunes, or on CD from this website
  • You catch them on a “proper” stage at Fibbers on Saturday, March 8, 2014